By Andy McNamara – Staff Writer
Entering Week 5 the only undefeated and winless teams reside in the East Division, while parity rules throughout the West. As great as a franchise’s offense may be it is the goalie that separates the contenders and pretenders. Let’s look at the power rankings for the last line of defense.
5. Matt Vinc – Rochester Knighthawks
It was a tough night for the youthful Knighthawks as the odds were stacked against them this weekend. The defending NLL champion Rush were hunting for victory number one, while also celebrating their home opener and banner raising. Emotions were high and Saskatchewan struck quick to eventually double up the visitors 16-8.
The goal total may seem high, but Matt Vinc was peppered with quality scoring chances out of the 53 shots he faced. Vinc is still tied for the second most saves in the NLL this season and certainly gives Rochester nothing to worry about inbetween the pipes.
4. Frank Scigliano – Calgary Roughnecks
One of the ways to measure the value of a player is to see how his team performs without him. The Roughnecks have sure looked more comfortable since the return of Frank Scigliano after he served a one game suspension. What’s impressive is that Scigliano, and the crew in front of him, have won consecutive road contests against a red hot Vancouver club in Week 3 and in one of the loudest arenas in the league at Colorado.
The big bodied netminder (6’4”, 250lbs) has his lowest GAA as a starter at 11.00 so far in this 2017 campaign and looks to be completely in-sync. A tough rematch with the Mammoth in Calgary next weekend will test that success.
3. Aaron Bold – Saskatchewan Rush
Everyone has a rough outing now and then, but it’s how you rebound from it that proves an individual’s character and ability. Aaron Bold was sloppy in a 13-11 loss to Toronto on January 14. He was the polar opposite Saturday versus the Knighthawks. Last season’s Champion’s Cup MVP returned to form in Saskatchewan’s home opener, as the veteran goalie held Rochester to single digit scoring in a 16-8 victory.
Bold is currently third in GAA and save percentage amongst starting NLL goaltenders. Don’t be surprised if a healthy winning streak for the Rush has begun.
2. Nick Rose – Toronto Rock
Two byes over the first four weeks of the season leaves Nick Rose without a large body of work. However, that doesn’t diminish the fact that this Orangeville, ON native is playing the best lacrosse of his life. Rose’s .828 save percentage and 8.00 GAA are first among NLL starters, which has been a huge benefit to a youthful, retooling Rock squad that sits at 2-0. Toronto tries to remain unbeaten on January 28 when Rochester comes to town.
1. Mike Poulin – Georgia Swarm
After seven seasons in the Roughnecks organization, Mike Poulin got comfortable with the southern hospitality of Georgia real quick. The 31-year old has helped lead the Swarm to a perfect 3-0 record, while sitting second overall in save percentage and GAA. Not bad for a 2005 second round pick.
The Swarm’s defense was a bit of a question mark entering 2017, but it keept the majority of New England’s 60 shots outside and away on Friday. Georgia sits first in the East, but a dangerous Stealth crew await them in Vancouver this Saturday night.
Andy McNamara has been a play-by-play commentator for the NLL on TSN, NLLTV.com, and world lacrosse tournaments since 2011. He’s also a sport talk host and anchor on TSN 1050 sports radio. Follow Andy on twitter @AndyMc81.